Just as the President of the United States, Joe Biden, did on Tuesday, his Secretary of State this Thursday, Antony Blinken, has provided Israel with all the military support of the United States. The commitment is firm, but the consequences of this support on US strategy in the Middle East could be disastrous for Washington in the region and break the united front against Iran that the White House seeks among its Arab allies, especially Saudi Arabia.
If the threat of “total war” launched by the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, it is true, the Gaza Strip can become the Armageddon that Biden has spoken of so many times in relation to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Now that term of the Apocalypse ominously brings the battle of the end of times closer to the biblical scenario, only not in the plain of Megiddo on the outskirts of Jerusalem, but in the punished Gaza.
The Gaza Strip, under attack and a total blockade since 2007, is controlled by the Hamas militias, the group that carried out a massive armed attack in Israeli territory on October 7, with the result of plus 1,200 dead and the kidnappings of about 150 civilians. These events triggered the current Israeli siege of Gazaunder bombs since that day and with 300,000 soldiers and hundreds of tanks ready to enter that Palestinian territory, without any regard for its 2.2 million inhabitants.
These indiscriminate bombings on civilian population centers have caused the death of nearly 1,500 Palestinian civilians and They are just a sample of the destruction that an invasion can unleash.
Hamas militants will fight to the death
The Israeli Prime Minister, the far-right Benjamin Netanyahu, has warned: “every member of Hamas is a dead man.” This means that there will be no prisoners and no one will ask for mercy. Hamas militants will fight to the death and will do so by all means, including sheltering among the civilian population, cAs has happened on other occasions, knowing that the Israeli forces will annihilate them all.
It is with Netanyahu, and above all with the ultraconservative forces that demand that the Army raze the Palestinian territories and then repopulate them with their own settlers, that Biden and his envoys in Tel Aviv have to deal with. With them and with the promise to help Israel until the end, even at the risk of unleashing a regional war with devastating consequences, in the face of which the conflict in Ukraine would remain a mere ex-Soviet conflict.
A new scenario that excludes dialogue
The times are over when, in a outbreak of violence, American diplomacy and intelligence services were working behind the scenes to achieve a ceasefire. That happened two years ago when another wave of attacks on Gaza was unleashed.
So it was not a big problem to talk to Netanyahu half a dozen times and another time with the Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah al Sisi, and even with the leader of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbaswho in reality did not then and does not have any command in Gaza.
There were even contacts with leaders of Hezbollah and Iranwith agents from Qatar (a country whose money is behind many of the Islamist groups) and with Russian “diplomats” in the region, who also knew the Islamic radicals well.
The aim was to achieve minimum channels of dialogue, without falling into the demands of some factions of the American Democratic Party that demanded the use of force. The White House He then opted for peaceful means to solve the problem and made it clear to the Tel Aviv Government.
The Middle East will not be the same after October 7
The current situation is radically different. With the Hamas attack, which had an unthinkable scope, the State of Israel has encountered an existential threat and is responding with all its military capacity and all its violence. The Middle East will never be the same after October 7. “Hamas wanted a change and it is going to have it. Gaza will never be the same“said Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.
Blinken brings US support to Israel
This Thursday in Tel Aviv, Secretary of State Blinken once again supported Israel and its right to defend itself against Hamas. The problem is that no one considers whether this right includes the possibility of massacre the civilian population of Gaza or prevent food, medicine, basic goods and fuel from reaching the Strip, without electricity or drinking water, and with hospitals overflowing with wounded in a situation that has not even been seen in Ukraine at war. In Ukraine there are ways to withdraw. Not in Gaza.
“I sense an intense determination in Israel to win and the United States is here as its ally to help ensure that it does,” Blinken said in his meeting with the Israeli president, Isaac Herzogconverted to the most ruthless extremism.
“There is an entire nation (Gaza) out there that is responsible. That the civilians were not aware, that they did not know what was going to happen, is completely false,” Herzog charged.
Shortly before, Blinken gave a joint press conference with Netanyahu and further underlined his country’s commitment to its Middle East ally. “You may be strong enough to defend yourself, but as long as the United States exists, you will never have to. We will always be by your side“Blinken said.
The ties between Biden and Netanyahu have been known for decades. However, the circumstances of recent years, with the far-right radicalism of the coalition that governs Israel today, have made things very difficult for American diplomacy, especially with pressure from the street holding the Israeli prime minister responsible for what happened with Hamas.
No moderate Israeli interlocutors
Right now, it is easier to support the war option than mediation. Who can a representative of the White House meet with in the face of the Jewish, political and religious fundamentalism that dominates Tel Aviv and Jerusalem?
And, furthermore, the US presidential elections They are just around the corner, in November of next year. Israel is not Ukraine, around whose aid doubts are growing among Americans. The Jewish lobby in Congress is very strong and both Republicans and Democrats are very interested in gaining their support.
Just like the previous president did, donald trumpand its diplomats to orchestrate the Abraham Accords with Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan recognizing Israel as a State, now the Biden team intended to do the same with Saudi Arabia, the jackpot in the great game of the Middle East.
But if the US goes for an attack that destroys Gaza, talks with Riyadh will fizzle out and anger across the Arab (and Muslim) world could lead to emergence of new jihadist groups that remember the diminished ISIS and Al Qaeda.
Risk of reactivating global jihadism
There may be governments currently facing the US, such as Russia, that see it convenient to play the card of Islamic radicalism if asymmetric responses are necessary to subdue the West.
Afghanistan is in the hands of the Taliban and the US no longer has anything to do there. In Iraq, Americans have lost influence in the midst of a rise of Shiism and proximity to Iran. Both countries can harm Washington by hosting jihadist groups.
Militias that could gain the attention of Iran, sponsor of Hezbollah and Hamas itself, and whose hand in the October 7 attacks can be glimpsed, even without Hamas members themselves saying so, as they have done.
The US is very cautious, since a recognition of this participation or the existence of conclusive evidence could lead to a declaration of war by Tel Aviv and its support by Washington. Better not to know.
The Secretary of Defense of the United States, Lloyd Austinindicated this Thursday in Brussels after a NATO meeting that there are no “clear indications” and caution will be maintained.
Excessive pressure on Iran, even before reaching total war, could launch this “axis of resistance” sponsored by Tehran in the Middle East and materialized in dozens of Islamist groups, Shiite or not (Hamas is Sunni), willing to spread a new jihad across the planet.
Therefore, the alternative they are considering is to crush Hamas, forcefully, in its nest in Gaza, and this is what the US now values despite the high risk of that military operation and the snowball that can be created.
To stem defection among Arab countries that have good relations with Washington, in the event of a large-scale Israeli attack on Gaza, Blinken announced in Tel Aviv that he will meet with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
The message from the United States is clear and aimed at Hezbollah and Iran itself. And President Biden has repeated it: “we are telling the Iranians clearly. Be careful.”